Executive Vice President / COO
When it comes to our kids and our students, where are our priorities? What do we really care about? Is it just giving them the tools to learn or is it more? Should we be satisfied with them learning in a space or should we provide them a space that is the most beneficial environment possible?
These are just some of the questions that I am asking myself after 10 years of being in the business of cleaning. And why am I asking these questions? The answer is that cleaning is inextricably linked to classrooms, to school restrooms, to children. Our kids go to school 5 days a week, 10 months of year for 8 hours a day. That is about 180 days or almost half a year where our kids are behind school doors. Don’t you think it is important to know what kind of environment they are learning in and what condition the environment is around them?
Ask any business administrator or superintendent and they can recite a long list of improvements they have made in the school. Energy efficiency, lighting, solar panels, chemical free playgrounds, new HVAC units, etc. are just a few of these improvements. But ask them what their cleaning program is and they will defer to the Director of Buildings and Grounds. Push a little harder and they will tell you, “Oh yeah, we are using green products. Sustainability is important to us.” But while they say the right thing, they are doing the wrong thing by not being able to articulate details. They instead spout ambiguities and generalities.
How many of our schools are still using bleach? How are they disinfecting the school desks? What is the protocol when/if a student becomes infected with MRSA or C-Diff? What is their Hand Washing program? Why doesn’t the administration get involved in those details? Wow. It must be that solar panels are more important to the school than the student’s health, considering that a school cannot answer any of my questions.
Ebola was all anyone was talking about this year. How can we prepare? Do we have the right cleaning products to kill the virus? Are you kidding me?! How can you prepare for Ebola? Where is this concern about the flu? Yes, the flu. Does anyone know how many kids died from the flu in 2014 in the United States? 142! That number isn’t associated with kids who have risk factors like asthma or diabetes, but that number is healthy kids that die from the common flu. Does anyone know how many kids died from Ebola in 2014 in the United States? 0. So I ask, where are our priorities?
Perhaps another perspective is necessary to make my point. In order for an electrician or a plumber to work in a school, they must be certified. They must be at a certain level in their profession to work in a school because of the liability to all of the students. But when it comes to hiring a custodian, just a simple background check is enough. The Director of Buildings and Grounds will train a custodian or the head custodian will show the custodian the ropes. These custodians have the most interaction with your students. They have tremendous impact when it comes to improving the environment for our kids. Yet, how are the classrooms cleaned? What are they cleaning with? Is 1 day of training by another custodian really sufficient?
I work with directors and custodians every day. They are hardworking men and women. They want to do the best job possible. They want to see the students be successful. They want to help the teachers. But they are handcuffed. They aren’t given the respect they desire. We should be giving them the training necessary to make a difference for our kids. They should be the experts in bacteria and virus and how to eradicate them. They should be experts in VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) and how VOC impacts asthma in young kids. You want to cut down on absenteeism in schools, look no further than how we clean our schools. You want to cut down on how our kids spread flu during flu season, look at how often high touch surfaces are disinfected.
I hope that you are as frustrated as I am at our current level of awareness when it comes to cleaning. How can you help change this? Demand the school administration get involved. Demand the school administration give our Directors of Buildings and Grounds and their staff the respect they desire. Demand the school administration give their staff the tools that can make the difference in the health of our students. Demand. Because aren’t our kids lives worth incessant demanding?